Im­prove­ment? Yes, but it’s still a long way to go

CityPress - - Voices -

Au­di­tor-Gen­eral Kimi Mak­wetu re­leased au­dit out­comes of the coun­try’s 278 mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties this week, which showed that more mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties were not com­ply­ing with fi­nan­cial re­port­ing.

Our gov­ern­ment has ap­plauded the fact that 54 out of 272 mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties au­dited achieved a clean au­dit – up from 40 in the 2013/14 fi­nan­cial year. This is still a mere 19.85% clean au­dit growth 22 years af­ter democ­racy.

It is an en­cour­ag­ing de­vel­op­ment that mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties were able to keep records of their in­come and spend­ing so au­di­tors could check whether com­mu­ni­ties re­ceived the ser­vices they paid for.

Mak­wetu also pointed out that 92% of the mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties’ fi­nances ur­gently re­quired fi­nan­cial man­age­ment. While the baby step on keep­ing records is wel­come, fi­nan­cial man­age­ment at lo­cal gov­ern­ment level has been an is­sue that has needed at­ten­tion for years.

Au­di­tor-Gen­eral re­ports have con­sis­tently painted a bleak pic­ture against the back­drop of poor ac­count­abil­ity, waste­ful ex­pen­di­ture and non­com­pli­ance to leg­is­la­tion. A to­tal of 240 mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties recorded R14.7 bil­lion in ir­reg­u­lar ex­pen­di­ture.

This kind of spend­ing, un­for­tu­nately, opens up mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties to the pos­si­bil­ity of fraud and cor­rup­tion.

Added to this, the lack of fi­nance man­age­ment skills means mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties con­tin­u­ously fail to put sys­tems in place that con­trol how much was re­ceived, spent and re­cov­ered from de­fault­ers. This led to some mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties not even be­ing able to pay Eskom for elec­tric­ity that had al­ready been sold to con­sumers.

It is clear that mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties need to stop talk­ing about skills short­ages and start do­ing some­thing to grow them.

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